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Spokane County Commissioners authorize $500,000 shelter expansion for Camp Hope residents

inside camp hope
Savanna Rothe | SPR
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Camp Hope, located in Spokane's East Central neighborhood had an estimated 600 residents living there at its height, but now has around 460 residents.

The Spokane County Board of Commissioners have approved $500,000 to expand the Trent Resource and Assistance Center to house residents of Camp Hope, the homeless community next to Interstate 90 in Spokane's East Central neighborhood.

They said the state's efforts to address the camp, gradually shrinking its footprint, has harmed the surrounding neighborhood.

During their Tuesday meeting, the Spokane County Commissioners voted to purchase 350 beds, a shower trailer, mobile offices for service providers and lumber to dramatically increase the capacity of the city of Spokane's newest homeless shelter. Commissioners did not discuss how to staff the additional beds, or other costs that could come up with dramatically expanding the size of the Trent shelter.

These, plus existing beds would transform the shelter into a 500-bed congregate facility. Last month the commissioners approved a declaration of emergency, which means they don't have to go through a normal public hearing or competitive bidding process to spend money on Camp Hope issues. This budget request was not on the commissioner’s normal agenda and was requested by a group the Spokane County Sheriff convened to discuss Camp Hope.

Spokane County Commissioner Josh Kerns said the state had “bungled” its response to the camp during the commissioners Tuesday meeting.

“We’ll be the adults in the room, we’ll put up the money and the resources to fix their problem,” he said.

Commissioner Mary Kuney said the funding was needed to keep people from living outdoors in freezing temperatures.

“With the temperatures, with the snow, with the wind that we have had, it is imperative to get people into a safe environment,” she said. “This funding will help do that.”

Spokane County Commissioner Al French said the estimated half a million-dollar expansion will be paid for with county mental health sales tax funds.

"A lot of these individuals that are located at Camp Hope are either experiencing addiction problems or mental health challenges, so this is an appropriate use for those sales tax dollars," he said. "If for some reason, it was determined there might be other demands that go beyond the authorization of the sales tax dollars, then I think the county would probably look at using either general fund dollars, or some other funding source that might be available."

He said he was also hopeful the county might win its lawsuit against the state, which asked a judge to declare the site a chronic nuisance and reimburse the county for the cost of responding to the camp.

French said the county will likely have the supplies purchased and set up by December, which may impact the region's timeline for attempting to clear the camp. Local leaders initially said everyone must leave by November 10, and then November 15.

Camp Hope is roughly a 460-person homeless encampment next to I-90 on Washington State Transportation land. State agencies have their own $24 million-dollar lawmaker mandated plan to house those residents running to parallel to the city and counties efforts.

In an interview last month, state leaders said local governments mid-November deadline is unrealistic and could result in many camp residents remaining homeless. They said they're efforts, bringing service providers to residents and stabilizing them in a single location will lead to more finding long-term housing.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.